The staff at Gippsland and East Gippsland Aboriginal Co-operative (GEGAC) are a wonderful example of the strengths of community giving in First Nations communities.
In addition to their paid roles providing crucial health and community services, the staff at GEGAC give their own time to supporting community in a variety of ways. This includes participating in food relief and fundraising, organising community events and celebrations, sitting on boards and advisory groups, volunteering at local sports clubs, looking after children and other members of the community, and facilitating community activities.
“Our food relief is all volunteer so our staff give their own time to put boxes together and deliver packages on the way home…If crises happen that becomes the priority and we do what we need to do, in our own time. We joke that our job isn’t 9 to 5 and it’s true. We’re all giving our time and it never stops for community”
The GEGAC staff also describe how giving back to community is part of their values and an intrinsic part of living in community and supporting each other. This culture of community giving enables them community to address the needs and issues impacting them and develop self-determined solutions. Contributing their time to community initiatives ensure that community members have access to equal opportunities and essential services.
“We do it because we don’t want people to miss out, some people have more opportunities than others, but it doesn’t mean they should miss out” … “Going back to culture, it’s just something that you do, you share with each other and make sure that everyone gets a hand up and step up. It’s the equality that we want in community.”
However increased funding is required to support these community-led initiatives. Bureaucratic processes can also pose a barrier to community members being able to give their time to Aboriginal community-controlled organisations, limiting opportunities for social and community participation.
State government leadership is required to ensure that community giving, and community-led initiatives receive resources and support, and that all people have access to the benefits of participating in their community.